Car MP3 Player
For 2000 Boxster

Requirements and story
Pictures and installation
Palm Pilot user interface

The PhatBox may be for sale at Unfortunately, the new PhatBoxes lack the serial port to duplicate the Palm portion of this install. You can use only a compatible CD changer controller to use the PhatBox (either in your head unit or RF modulator/controller). If you have an older box, and would like to duplicate my Palm set-up, or any box and would like a Becker set-up, email me at, and we'll see if we can get it working in your car.

I wanted an mp3 player which had the following qualities:

Replacing my head unit with one that plays mp3 CDs would only give 650mb of storage, and would not look too pretty. An Empeg would be expensive (note: after I did this the Empeg has been discontinued, the remaining stock had been discounted, and they are now sold out), and would require replacing my head unit and losing the audio CD player, or losing one of my few storage trays. The Neo would also have taken a storage tray, and requires I reboot my computer to attach its hard drive in order to load mp3s. Both the Neo and Empeg would look ugly in my car. A home-built computer would take up way too much space in my trunk(s). This isn't my old '88 Toyota Wagon, the installation has to look nice (e.g. you don't notice it at all). A perfect system would work with the existing CD changer controls on my Porsche OE ("Becker Mexico") head unit. I wouldn't have a rich UI, but I wouldn't have to change anything in my dash, which is more important.

I found PhatNoise in Dec. 2000. They were working on exactly what I wanted (except without an ethernet jack). I quickly got a job there, and started secretly working on compatibility with my head unit. Mid-2001 I installed a first-generation PhatBox, using only a Palm as control, and the AUX input of the stereo. In the beginning of 2002, after much help from many of the guys at PhatNoise, I finally got the PhatBox working with the CD changer interface. The setup also retains the Palm as an auxillary control, useful for a passenger wanting to find songs. The box plugs into the cd changer control cable via a PhatBox-Sony adapter cable (The Porsche Becker unit acts very similar to a Sony unit). I needed a female-female Unilink gender changer to plug the two cables together. Audio goes through the separate RCA cables. Then a serial cord was dropped into the cabin on the right side of the center storage trays. I can then plug any number of serial devices (palm pilot, laptop) into to cable to control the box, or tuck the cable away when not in use.

The PhatBox has a removable hard drive which is plugged into a PC via a USB dock. Copying over files and creating playlists is quite simple. I'm still waiting for a good wireless (802.11) solution where I wouldn't have to take anything out of my car.

The installation was done by Paris Audio. This is THE place to go for audio and performance upgrades for your Porsche. They were also helpful with test units to get this working.

The PhatBox is mounted in the front trunk next to the amp, where a CD changer would go. pic
The hard drive is in a removable cartridge. pic
The cables are nicely tucked away. pic
The serial cable drops into the passenger footwell. pic
I usually leave the Palm in the tray while driving for easy access to the hard buttons, which are programmed for disc/track up/down. pic
NEW - I swapped out the red shell for a silver shell. It's still the same old "red" PhatBox with a serial port, just a different shell. pic

Head Unit Interface
The PhatBox acts just like a cd changer would. Buttons 1-10 go to my different playlists, and the track knob (and entering a track directly) go to the different songs in the playlist. Update: I have upgraded the controls to use the PhatNoise SSA Interface. So when I want to listen to a particular song, I just press 4, hear "Now browsing artists, the current artist is so-and-so", begin a fast forward and hear the letters of the alphabet spoken, end fast forward, and am on the first artist of that letter. I can then switch forward to the artist I want to hear, then the song, all without taking my eyes off the road.

The box playing "Disc 2, Track 99". pic
The head unit and Palm displays are synchronized. Here's the box playing the same D2/T99, with the Palm in "CD Changer" mode. pic
Disc 2, Track 100, with the Palm in "Title" mode. Note that the head unit can only display 2 digits for track and 1 for disc. The full title of the song, and disc/track number are scrolling by on the Palm. pic

Palm Interface
CD Changer style controls
Next/Previous Track, Next/Previous Disc, Play, Pause, and Refresh Display buttons. The display shows the disc/track/time, playlist name, and track name.

List of all "discs" and "tracks"
You can scroll up and down to see all the songs in all playlists. A file will start playing when selected. In both views, the "hard" buttons on the bottom are programed for track up/down (up/down buttons), and disc up/down (address book and to-do).

The application now hooks into the Palm search function. Using the standard Palm search method, you can search for songs, then click on them to start playing.